Pugh handgrabs catfish at Lake St. John during the summer season
NATCHEZ — Sacrificing an arm is not what most people expect to do on a Saturday summer fishing trip, but Brandt Pugh and his father, William, are not your average fishers.
Brandt went on his first fishing trip with his father and his father’s best friend when he was 12 years old, but he never imagined fishing would be frightening.
“(My dad) has been doing it since he was young, and he finally decided to take me with him and show me how to do it,” Brandt said. “It’s a little scary at first but ever since then, I loved it.”
Brandt said his method for catching catfish entails him finding a hot spot where the catfish would normally be.
“I try to find a hole in a tree or a boat ramp. These are places catfish like to live,” he said.
Next, Brandt gets into the water and sticks his hand in the hot spot, waiting for a 30-pound, 4-foot Flathead to latch its jaws on to his arm.
Hand grabbing catfish, or noodling, is an extreme, and sometimes dangerous, way to catch catfish. Brandt said the catfish don’t have big teeth, but they’re small and plentiful and can be painful depending on the aggression and size of the fish.
“It hurts sometimes. I know people that have broken their fingers doing it, somebody needed stitches on their arm one time,” he said. “I’ve gotten some scars from it as well.”
Brandt said it is pretty common for him to come back from a day of fishing bruised up, but it is worthwhile.
“It definitely gives me an adrenaline rush, and I love fishing,” Brandt said.
Brandt recalls his most memorable noodling trip less than a month ago at Lake St. John when he caught the biggest catfish of his career.
“I put my hand down (a hot spot) and pulled up a 35-pound fish. (My friends) were all proud of me,” he said. “I went back down to make sure there wasn’t another one and I was kind of hesitant, but another 35-pounder grabbed my hand. Those were the two biggest fish I ever caught and on the same day.”
Brandt said he loves to skin the catfish after a day at the lake and eat them with his family.
Though there is a big market for catfish in the South for him to go into business, Brandt said football is more important to him.
Brandt is a senior linebacker at Adams County Christian School and noodling is something he does in his offseason.
“It’s a good hobby to get into, and I’m just glad to spend time with my dad on the lake,” he said.